Buchanan County Degree Attainment Initiative


$1,000,000 in Community Development Block Grant dollars have been awarded for the Buchanan County Degree Attainment Initiative – an Innovation Campus program.

Using high-impact apprenticeships and mentoring programs regional “high demand business and industries”1 will train employees and potential employees, with the goal of enhancing their ability to contribute to the businesses and the economy.

The goals of the Innovation Campus program are to:
  • increase the number of jobs in high-demand businesses and industries
  • enable students/trainees to earn bachelors’ degrees aligned with these jobs in three years or less
  • reduce the costs of this education/training through a combination of early college credits and private business underwriting
  • increase the use of high-impact apprenticeships with prospective employers as an integral part of training/educational curricula
  • improve the preparation of students/trainees for employment in high-growth business and industries
Geographic Area of Project:

Apprenticeship training and mentoring will generally take place in Buchanan County, on-site, within targeted industries. College coursework will primarily be provided by Missouri Western State University. Additional coursework may occur at the Hillyard Technical Center run by the St Joseph School District, and on the campuses of Metropolitan Community College.

Regional Need:

The St. Joseph metro region is home to a number of companies focused on human and animal health, and additional “high demand business and industries.” Consistently, these businesses have job openings that remain unfilled due to gaps between educational profiles of job applicants and the educational profile required for the open positions. The St. Joseph region trails the nation in the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or more (18.9% vs 28.2%). However, the region marginally exceeds national percentages of those with at least a high school degree and those with some college. Buchanan County would be particularly well served by a program to develop high school graduates and citizens with some college into recipients of bachelor’s degrees with coursework focused in areas of need by the region’s high demand industries.

Addressing the Need:

Partnering companies will select project applicants based on their potential to complete a bachelor’s degree in a discipline relevant to the business, and their potential to be long-term employees who will help develop the companies. Participants will be selected from the applicants by a board that represents all BCDAI partners. In addition to required on-site training and mentoring, participants will enroll in college courses such that they can complete a bachelor’s degree in a field relevant to the sponsoring industry.

Curricula and Applied Learning Experiences:

All business partners have agreed to have on-site training experiences that will lead to credit-bearing internships, and/or mentorship programs that will prepare employees for more responsible and productive roles within their businesses. Participants will take college courses, with the majority of the courses being upper level coursework within business (accounting, finance, management, marketing), the sciences (chemistry and biology), and engineering (electronics and computer engineering, manufacturing engineering) – areas of greatest importance to the growth of high-demand businesses.

The St. Joseph Metro Chamber of Commerce is the fiscal agent for this initiative, and Missouri Western State University is the lead partner.

1 For this Initiative, high demand businesses include advanced manufacturing, energy solutions, bioscience, health sciences and services, information technology, financial and professional services, transportation and logistics.